Women’s lingerie had now been scaled down to the “bare” minimum: bra, knickers and suspender belt. (3)

01

Old-fashioned corsets had long been criticized by women’s activists and even doctors, who claimed they were not only uncomfortable but also unhealthy. Nevertheless, corsets were marketed throughout the 1920s and were still regularly purchased, particularly by older women. Over time, though, less burdensome corsets and lightweight rubber girdles gradually supplanted traditional lace-up, boned corsets. (1)

Glass Half Plate Image of a woman modelling a Mercedes corset for the stay and corset maker Miss Byron Corsets. Published in Ladies' Field. Maker: Bassano Studio Production Date: 1922-03-31
Glass Half Plate Image of a woman modelling a Mercedes corset for the stay and corset maker Miss Byron Corsets. Published in Ladies’ Field. Maker: Bassano Studio Production Date: 1922-03-31

By the end of the decade, many women dispensed with “foundation garments” altogether, instead opting for the brief new “step-ins” or “cami-knickers”, which were light one-piece undergarments that amounted merely to a silk or rayon camisole stitched to a pair of thigh-length panties. (1)

Vintageerotic postcard - model wearing cami-knickers.
Vintageerotic postcard – model wearing cami-knickers.

Most brassieres manufactured during the 1920s were intended to flatten rather than accentuate women’s breasts. These cup-less brassieres, also called bandeaux, were made of cotton, silk, or rayon, and fitted snugly against the woman’s body in order to smooth her silhouette under the straight narrow dresses of the day. Some bras during the mid-to late-1920s, however, were deliberately designed to separate and lift women’s breasts. In 1922, Ida Cohen Rosenthal developed (later renamed Maidenform). These “uplift” brassieres often featured elastic inserts and were widely advertised as preventing the bust from sagging. (1)

Ladies Antique Lingerie Advertising, 1920's
Ladies Antique Lingerie Advertising, 1920’s

Combinations were a favourite form of underwear in the 1920s. They were made of coloured crepe-de-chine, silk or artificial silk and were often decorated with embroidery and lace. (2)

Fifi D'Orsay, 1920's
Fifi D’Orsay, 1920’s

In the late 19th century, the négligeé was a lightweight dressing gown or house coat which could be worn when entertaining close friends. Women of the Roaring Twenties made it into a completely frivolous undergarment. Until the end of the 1920s, the négligeé or déshabillé remained – with stockings – the sexiest piece of lingerie in a woman’s wardrobe. This was because the women who wore them looked as if they were indeed déshabillées: all but nude. (3)

Flapper Nancy Nash, Silent Film Actress, in Negligee and Undies, circa 1920s
Flapper Nancy Nash, Silent Film Actress, in Negligee and Undies, circa 1920s

Sources:

(1) The 1920s (American Popular Culture Through History) by Kathleen Drowne and Patrick Huber, 2004
(2) The Feminine Ideal By Marianne Thesander
(3) 1000 Dessous, A History of Lingerie by Gilles Néret, 2003

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